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Poor Families, Poor Neighborhoods: How Family Poverty Intensifies the Impact of Concentrated Disadvantage on High School Graduation

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionWodtke, Geoffrey, Felix Elwert, and David J. Harding. 2012. "Poor Families, Poor Neighborhoods: How Family Poverty Intensifies the Impact of Concentrated Disadvantage on High School Graduation." PSC Research Report No. 12-776. September 2012.

Theory suggests that the effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods on child educational outcomes may depend on a family's economic resources as well as the timing of neighborhood exposures during the course of child development. However, most previous research assumes that disadvantaged neighborhoods have the same effects on all children regardless of their family resources, and few prior studies specifically analyze the timing of exposure to different neighborhood conditions across the early life course. This study extends research on neighborhood effects by investigating how timing of exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods during childhood and adolescence affects high school graduation and whether these effects vary across families with different economic resources. Results based on novel counterfactual methods for time-varying treatments and time-varying effect moderators indicate that exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods, particularly during adolescence, has a strong negative effect on high school graduation, and that this deleterious effect is much more severe for children from poor families. The severe impact of spatially concentrated disadvantage on children from poor families suggests that ecological socialization models of neighborhood effects must account for the interactions between nested social contexts like the family environment and local neighborhood, as well as for the dynamic coevolution of these contexts over time.

Country of focus: United States.

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